College Degree: Worth Your Effort?

Posted by Patra Frame

He’s an Intel IT type in a senior management position and he doesn’t have a degree. But everyone who works for him and all new hires do.

She’s military and ready to take her enlisted experience and security clearances into the government contracting world. But all the jobs say a degree is required, even though she is doing the same work without a degree.

What education should you consider?

The first step is your career goals. Certainly there are good jobs which still do not require a college education. Many of these – plumber, electrician, auto/truck mechanic, for example – offer a long term future once you have completed some specialized training and, often, an apprentice program. Others – customer service reps, help desk technician – often require an associates degree. But if your career goals include most forms of technical work, professional or white-collar jobs, business, or management – you probably need a bachelor’s degree.

Once it was common for federal contracts to ask for either a degree or some specific number of years of relevant experience. Increasingly, the requirement is the degree, without the option for the alternative experience instead.

Many civilian jobs require degrees, even when you might not expect them to. Looking at the jobs which interest you, what education are the majority requiring? A good place to find out is the Occupational Outlook Handbook which provides information about job requirements, the work, the education needed, and the need for people in such jobs over time.

Perhaps you hated high school or tried college but it did not work.

Don’t give up your career interests. College today is quite a bit different than even a few years ago. And you have more experience and maturity too. Plus the training programs you have completed in military service, federal civil service, and some employers, can provide you with college credits before you even enroll in a school formally. Have your training checked out and get transcripts for your military service or civilian experience:

Military? Vet? In addition to tuition assistance while you are on active duty and the GI Bill, there is a special program by some universities to further reduce your costs. Check out the Yellow Ribbon program and schools.

Be careful of for profit colleges and online only education especially – there are good players in these but you have to do your research carefully. Be sure any college you choose has good programs that employers hire from – and that most students do graduate. If you are going to school after your military service, some of the best value options remain state schools. And you may want to start at a community college if you do not already have a lot of credits from your work experience. These offer good value and you can then transfer to a college or university while reducing your total costs.

Not every major will result in huge pay immediately but overall a person with a Bachelor’s degree out-earns a high school graduate. And the differential is widening still. Those with technical, engineering, science or math degrees have the highest wages. And those with advanced degrees earn even more.

The demand for people with higher education keeps increasing. A recent study showed that 87% of people over 25 had a high school diploma while 29% had a bachelors degree. But among larger cities’ residents, the range of those with bachelors degrees runs 40-50%. And when you just look at those of working age, the numbers go up.

This entry was posted on Monday, July 25, 2011 9:18 am

3 thoughts on “College Degree: Worth Your Effort?”

  1. honestly if you have a clearance, don’t sweat not having a degree. they still need and want you. i left military after 4 with my clearance and landed a very high-paying job without even an Associate’s.
    but you should still go for a degree when you get time. you can only increase your value

  2. I’ve always wanted to serve Uncle Sam but I am physically disabled and couldn’t join up like my Pop and Grandpop because I got blinded in one of my eyes in Junior High. I was an excellent student and started a degree in Math and Physics but wasn’t able to complete it because I didn’t have the money to finish the degree. I just got offered a dream job which requires a Secret clearance, at a very good laboratory at a prestigious institution where I can finish my degrees, and the job is to help out our troops overseas. I want this job to help my country, but am I going to be disqualified for the clearance because I don’t have the degree? Is there any way out of this?

    D’Angelis. Philadelphia.

    1. HooHa – absolutely there are still some jobs without degrees just an increasing number that require them in civilian and government contracting world where once they did not.

      D’Angelis – unless the job requires a degree and you lied about having one, the lack of a degree will not influence your security clearance being granted. Best wishes for a quick clearance and a grand new job! And the ability to finish your degree is real bonus.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of updates to this conversation